Editor, The Transcript:
Our society tries to shame homelessness, when it is really the shame of our society.
The Transcript's reporting on the closure of the downtown mutual aid fridge showed how far the Norman community has to go to understand what homelessness says about our gentrifying society ("Bigger issue," Aug. 12).
Local mutual aid organizations designed an elegant, common-sense solution: a community built up around the fridge. But we couldn't handle people struggling with economic insecurity so close to Norman's new Main Street.
The shame of homelessness is ours, the privileged, more than the marginalized.
My millennial generation has seen increasing inequality. Three people now own more wealth than the bottom half of the country, according to the Institute for Policy Studies and Politifact. The top 10% of income earners own 77% of the wealth.
We saw Wall Street reach record highs last year, while others still struggle to pay the rent. The banks take between 50 and 75 cents for every dollar that someone pays on their mortgage. This "total interest payment" impedes affordable market housing.
It makes tent cities, shantytowns and squatter settlements not seem so irrational.
Oklahoma's troubadour, Woody Guthrie, wrote "I ain't got no home in this world any more" 90 years ago in solidarity with the migrants and tenant farmers swept aside by modern capitalism and the environmental catastrophe of the dust bowl.
The trauma of living in boom and bust cycles consumes us all, but it visits most violently on what Woody called “my brothers and my sisters stranded on this road."
COVID demonstrated the limits of the market and the need for the state. We need to mine corporate profits and reduce the bloated Pentagon budget to meet social needs.
City leaders must ensure that COVID-relief funding get to those hardest hit by the crisis. Norman needs an adequate day shelter now. The city should recognize the ingenuity of mutual aid organizations, not throw up bureaucratic barriers that try to mask our shame.
If Woody were here, he'd ask, "Is this land still made for you and me?"